Meir Feldman
Founder Project 97b

Obama and Bibi both have it wrong

The negotiations between Iran and P5+1 are ignoring the single most-important subject. The focus of the discussions is massively misguided.

A brief history tour — in the 1600 and 1700’s the justification for enslaving blacks, for institutional racism, went from their religious status to their race. The initial rationale for enslaving Africans was that they were heathens. Then the reason became their heathen ancestry. In other words, the delegitimizing of African slaves began with their religion and then moved to their race.

When Pharaoh came to power in Exodus, his most memorable speech was about those Israelites. He preached about how dangerously powerful were those Israelites (were they an ethnicity or a religion?). Pharaoh’s was maybe the first organized campaign of de-legitimization. The greatest power in the world, Egypt, might be overwhelmed by a tiny band of Jews — that was his media message. Because of the shrewdness of the Jews, Egypt had to oppress the Jews. And that message has travelled throughout history.

Hitler began a similar campaign in 1933, when Jews were less than 1% of the German population (500,000 out of 67 million). Nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses began in April, 1933 and in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws revoked most of the political rights of German Jews. Every serious historian knows that this massive campaign against the Jews (based at different moments on race and religion) was at the heart of the Nazi agenda.

Today, its hard to keep track of the efforts by Iran to delegitimize Jews and Israel. Its hard to keep track of the number of Iranian threats about the impending destruction of Israel. Over and over again, Iranian leaders prophesy the death of Israel and the Jews who call her home. These are not private, closed door declarations. Rather, they are made to incite fear in the hearts of Jews and excited more hatred in the hearts of those inclined toward hate.

Sanctions against Iran should not be dependent solely on Iran’s nuclear efforts. Even more important than its centrifuges of fission-able nuclear material is its centrifuges that whip up hatred toward Israel and Jews. History teaches that the hatred and evil spun by our speech is the most dangerous known to man. Proverbs knew this 2500 years ago when it began teaching: “Life and death are in the tongue.”

The US and Europe and other countries should be demanding that Iran give up, not just its fission-able material and centrifuges, but the hatred they spin, the anti-semitism they try to swirl around the world. As long as leaders of Iran stand before their public and declare their desire to destroy Israel, their support of murdering Jews, international sanctions should be strengthened.

About the Author
One of the most profound and inspiring experiences of my life was attending the Wednesday night Bible Study class at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That was July 1, 2015, just 2 weeks after the tragic and horrific murder of the Charleston 9. The pain and faith, the heartbreak and hope of the grieving family members we met (and hold as dear friends to this day) was one of the most uplifting religious experiences of my life. Alongside Rabbi Tara Feldman, I served as a congregational rabbi for over 20 years, including the last 13 years at our beloved Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, New York. There were so many highs throughout those years -- one of them was to bring 8 amazing sisters of Myra Thompson to Great Neck. What I now know is that for many years as a law student and attorney, long before my rabbinical journey, I yearned for a different sense of meaning and purpose. That was what I discovered in my second mountain, in my steep and beautiful climb into a passionate Jewish life (taking a term from David Brooks). And now, having made aliyah with my wife and children, I think that I am experiencing the blessing of a third mountain. That is what Israel, Jerusalem and Project 97b feel like – yet another inspiring and deeply challenging ascent to a beautiful and unattainable peak.